The NBA Playoffs are sometimes tricky.
Through today, there are currently 6 different series that sit at 3-1, and one series that's been wrapped up since the weekend. Of those 6, I'd say maybe 2 of them are what most people expected. I say maybe because once we learned Kawhi was hurt, that sort of killed the Clippers' chances. But heading into that series I don't think many expected a 3-1 Suns lead.
That's the beauty of the NBA Playoffs, whatever the talking heads say, whatever bloggers write, whatever you did during the regular season, or how you match up on paper, none of it means dick. You have to go out and execute, and once that ball goes up all that matter is who can be better for those 48 minutes.
This is also true from game to game. Just because you won the last game doesn't mean you're guaranteed to win the next. Just because you have a team on the brink of elimination, does not mean they are eliminated. It's a race to 4, not 3. By now we've all heard the number, that teams with a 3-1 lead are 258-13 all time and 72-3 in the first round. But as we know, the closeout game is sometimes the hardest one to get.
Enter the Boston Celtics.
Returning home for Game 5 and their own chance to eliminate the Hawks and welcome the Sixers to town, here's a quick reminder of how the team has done in the Tatum/Brown era when a closeout opportunity presents itself
More often than not, they handle their business. It doesn't always come at the first opportunity, but in the end, they know how to close when they find themselves 1 win away from ending a series.
That's why I begging this team to be locked in and not play with their food tonight. Dejounte Murray is suspended, and the Hawks are on the brink, just put the blinders on and focus on tonight's game. That's it. That's all you need to do.
The issue is, we know this Celts team has a habit of looking ahead, and I admit, taking a look around in the Eastern Conference, it can be tempting to get ahead of yourself. The Bucks are on life support, the Cavs are on life support, and Joel Embiid has a sprained knee and according to Doc hasn't done anything basketball related since he got hurt
Things in a way are opening up for the Celts to make a deep run, but they have to remain focused. None of that shit matters if you don't handle your own business first. Who cares what's going on around you right now as far as I'm concerned. Winning tonight means Round 2 starts on Saturday as opposed to Monday. Those two days could be valuable. For a team that LOVES and I mean LOVES to make their lives harder on themselves, I'm hoping they've truly learned from this shit, just like Tatum talked about after their Game 4 win
Both Game 5 vs MIL and Game 6 vs MIA came at the Garden. A chance to step on some throats was wasted because this team probably just assumed they were going to win. As Tatum said, they relaxed. Entering tonight against a shorthanded Hawks team, that is my biggest concern and a way for the Celts to show us there has been some legit growth from last season.
I need everyone on this roster to remember the pain of losing that Finals. Remember the exhaustion and energy it took to close out MIL/MIA because you fucked around and found out. The NBA Playoffs are weird sometimes and the Basketball Gods are always watching. Respect the game, respect the opponent, and then promptly kick the shit out of them. That is the formula for tonight.
Then? If they win? We can look ahead….but only to Round 2. I've gone through too much hell in my life rooting for this basketball team to start fucking around with karma at this point. One game at a time, one possession at a time. Take care of the ball, rebound, play with energy, and it'll be onto the next.